Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Smoke gets in your ears

A friend loaned me a copy of "Deaf Sentence" by the British author
David Lodge. It is about suffering deafness. Evidently, the hero and
maybe the author suffered loss of good hearing in his late 40's or
50's. Lodge is witty and observant so when he goes through scenes
describing the difficulties of not hearing well, of mishearing without
realizing one has misheard, he creates a full catalog of the
associated problems.

The book opens in a noisy cocktail party where an attractive young
woman is unloading a long story of woe to the hero. He tries hard to
grasp at least an outline of her message. He has not understood her
name nor what she is saying. After a long speech by her, he is
reluctant to state that he has no idea what she has been talking

The author mentions the common idea that blindness is worse than not
being able to hear well. He considers a song "Drink to me only with
thine ears" and the revision entitled "Smoke gets in your ears". He
explains the burden on a marriage when most of the wife's utterances
are misunderstood or unclear. Worse, they are sometimes wrongly heard
by impaired ears without the owner of those ears grasping he has a
incorrect idea of what was said.

The author seems to know quite a bit about having weak hearing. Just
the difficulties of keeping new hearing aid batteries at hand and
getting the tiny, slippery little things into the right slot without
having one fall to the floor and roll out of sight under the couch are
exasperating. More important difficulties can come from the fact that
some spoken sounds, "t" and "p" for example, are created with a little
burst of air that makes a high-pitched sound. Lost hearing often
shows up first in the high pitches so a person who has lost some of
his hearing, like me, can hear some utterances that simply don't make
sense. The realization that one's wife is too intelligent and
clear-thinking to have actually said what seems to have been heard
imposes a burden on both members of the couple. Many "What was that?"
and repetitions of previous comments are exchanged throughout each

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